Brighton vs Arsenal: Can Mikel Arteta’s men get a much needed win to re-enter the race for Europe?
By Rob Worthington (Senior Writer)
Mikel Arteta sent a clear message in his post-match interview on Wednesday night following the night to forget in Manchester: “delete the game from the hard drive”. There would be no better to wipe the game from memory than through an emphatic win this weekend against Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium. Nonetheless, in spite of the Seagulls’ dreadful form since the turn of the year, the Arsenal faithful shouldn’t be banking on a routine victory. Since Brighton’s promotion to the Premier League in 2017, Arsenal have got the better of the side captained by Lewis Dunk just once. This win occurred in 2017. Yes, that’s right, Arsenal have not beaten Premier League strugglers Brighton in almost three years. So, in other words, Brighton have become a bit of a bogey team for Arsenal. Strangely, that has been the case both away from home and at the Emirates. So, it’s not as if we can really blame our away losses at the Amex on our dreadful away form. It simply seems the case that this Arsenal side just do not enjoy playing Brighton. To make the situation all the stranger, it seems Arsenal tend to struggle against south coast club when Brighton are struggling themselves. In December 2018, Brighton’s 1-1 home draw against Arsenal ended a three game losing streak. 6 months later, when Brighton secured another 1-1 draw, this time in North London, the Seagulls were just two losses away from relegation. Finally, this season, in a dismal 2-1 home loss for us, Graham Potter’s team hadn’t won a game in over a month before they took on an Arsenal side managed by Freddie Ljungberg. The only anomaly occurred in 2018’s away fixture when Chris Hughton’s team’s victory over us marked their third victory on the bounce which propelled them into the Premier League’s top half.
Over the last couple of years, losing against desperate sides during the run-in has become a bit of an undesirable theme for Arsenal. Especially away from home. In 2018, Arsène Wenger’s men lost 2-1 away to Newcastle in April and 3-1 away to a poor Leicester City team just under a month later. One year on, under Unai Emery, Arsenal suffered a 1-0 defeat against a bottom half Everton side in April, then went on to lose 3-2 at home to Palace and as mentioned above proceeded to capitulate against Brighton in a lacklustre 1-1 draw in early May. This has got to be a trend which Mikel Arteta should be looking to reverse. So, in any normal world, to hear Brighton are yet to win a game in 2020 would be really encouraging for Arsenal fans. Quite frankly, the facts and figures above suggest Brighton’s lack of form should be feared rather than welcomed. The type of team Brighton have only makes my fear grow stronger. The likes of Shane Duffy, Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster and Dan Burn all meet the criteria of defender which Arsenal tend to struggle against. Meanwhile, Glenn Murray is fighting fit and we all know he likes a game against Arsenal, despite not featuring regularly for Potter’s side this season. Still, we do have a couple of factors in our favour. We’ve already played a competitive match meaning our match sharpness is likely to be at a higher level than Brighton’s, whilst the lack of fans will mean we won’t be intimidated by supporters of a club from further down the division who are always up for it against us and Brighton have only picked up one point against a current side in the top six this season.
There’s also the additional element that this is a completely different outfit from the Brighton sides we have faced in recent years under Houghton. Potter has transformed Brighton into a possession based side, rather than the defensive, low compact block they’d set up in under Potter’s predecessor. This makes it a completely different challenge to what we’ve faced in previous years, where we’ve had to steadily attempt to break them down. Theoretically, this expansive style should suit us, as we’ll have more space in behind to expose.
If Arsenal are to get the win we so desperately need, Mikel Arteta needs to play on our notorious weaknesses against Brighton. He should tell the players pre-game that we have won just once against this weekend’s opposition five attempts since their promotion. This is an embarrassing record that needs to change. He should also remind the players of Wednesday night’s embarrassment. It’s time to start picking up points. It’s time to start eradicating silly errors. It’s time to change current outside perceptions of Arsenal Football Club. Rather weirdly, I’ve got a feeling that Arsenal will go and grab a victory this weekend. In any other situation, following such a dismal display against a top side, I’d expect us to struggle in such a game. However, I sense that the environment will suit us in this one. I anticipate that Mikel Arteta’s men will be on a mission and Arsenal will reign supreme on Saturday. Nonetheless, history suggests a very different story will be told. Take from it what you will. See you on the other side…
Predicted Line-Up: Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Tierney, Guendouzi, Maitland-Niles, Ceballos, Nelson, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Prediction: Brighton 1-3 Arsenal